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MARTHA SEZ: Comments on commentators and commenters

January 24, 2011
My friend Laura just taught me how to knit. I can’t purl yet. So far, using bulky variegated blue yarn,  I have made a long, narrow, scarf.

My scarf won’t win any prizes, but  that doesn’t matter, because I’m still in that state of neophyte grace in which anything I make merits praise. It’s not that I did a good job, but that I did it at all. I mean, this is the first thing I’ve ever knitted! Isn’t it long?

Perhaps that is why I am loath to finish it and begin a second project, which as such could be placed under greater scrutiny and judged more severely.

The other day I brought my knitting over to Laura’s, and we sat and talked over our needlework, as women have done for thousands of years, and so doing solved a great many of the world’s problems. We might have solved more, but at intervals we had to cease all activity and pay careful attention to the antics of Sonny, Laura’s favorite soap opera personality.

“Wait, wait, here’s Sonny!”

Aiming the remote at the set in an imperious manner, Laura increases the volume, and we hear Sonny and his wife speaking with great intensity, but very slowly, as if the director had told them they needed to stall around because the script — unlike my scarf — wasn’t long enough.

I must say, Sonny is intriguing, sort of a cross between a good guy and a bad guy. Soaps feature well-dressed, beautiful and shockingly wicked  characters. No wonder people get hooked on them.

I find them boring though because everybody in soaps talks so slowly, so haltingly.

If you turn on the television and hear someone murmuring “Did Etienne... speak to... Alphonse... about the....


You know immediately that you have unwittingly tuned into a soap opera. You also know that you can skip this episode entirely and tune in again same time, different day — maybe next month — and still the question will be unresolved.

You also know immediately when you tune into a hard-hitting news commentary. News commentators speak in a self-important, serious way, lowering their voices several octaves. They talk faster, more loudly and less intimately than soap actors, and they maintain eye contact with the camera, something a soap star seldom does. Women commentators, I think, have trouble knowing how much to smile. Nobody wants to be sounding shrill on the news.

Even when they have nothing much to say, news commentators and weather persons manage to make it sound urgent, as if to tell us, “All right, you guys, this isn’t funny. There are some pretty up-to-the minute, hard-hitting issues out there and we’ll tell you what they are right after this message.” Then they put off telling you for as many hours as they possibly can, unless they think some other network is about to scoop them.

And why are they called commentators instead of commenters? Adding that extra syllable to “comment”  makes the title sound more important and weighty. Things can only get worse from here.

“Hello, I’m Melvin Snill, with an up-to-the minute commentatoration on the shocking stuff going on in today’s classrooms.” Young newscasters, especially those from Idaho, will soon be called news commentator tots.

Remember TV westerns? Here are  a few classic lines, almost all exclamations: Reach for the sky! Why, you dirty double-crosser! Let’s head ‘em off at the pass! This town isn’t big enough for the two of us!  I’ve got a sneakin’ suspicion...

The soundtrack would be rife with the clip-clop of horse hooves, punctuated by ricocheting bullets.

Has cowboy lingo become popular with today’s politicians? Would  bad guys just swing chairs if they couldn’t get their hands on guns? Maybe, but firearms are so much more efficient!

So there we sat, Laura and I, with the television on as background noise, solving the world’s problems. It’s a pleasant pastime. I regret that eventually I will run out  of this blue variegated bulky yarn.

We went backward and forward in time, from the toast of our childhoods ( scraped, milk and cinnamon) to ways of dealing with the ongoing problems of family and friends.

Because women can knit up the raveled sleeve of care. Because women know a stitch in time saves nine. Because women have the patience to pull out a row and start all over again. Because women can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan ...

Have a good week.



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